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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Our Journey Begins – Backpack Greece & Italy

Dear parents,

Ciao da Italia! The trip is off to a fantastic start in beautiful Italy. Our journey began at the Spanish Steps, where the sights of Rome provided quite the kickoff. We spent a few hours in the Borghese Gardens, where we played games to get to know each other on our journey to becoming a close family. We’re such a small, perfect-sized group that we learned everyone’s names in mere minutes, which gave us the chance to dig a bit deeper and learn about people’s expectations for this summer as well as quirky talents and hobbies. We’re already excited to get to know each individual that gives so much to this group we’ve formed. That first evening brought our first big Italian meal together, where everyone bonded over the authentic cuisine in our private dining room. Later, some of us enjoyed our first of many gelatos of the summer.

Our second day was packed full of exploring ancient roman sights. Our tour guide, Dominico,  led us to one of the most well-known landmarks in the world- the Colosseum. Though gladiators no longer inhabit the arena, we imagined the combat as we toured the amphitheater. We wandered to the Roman Forum and Pantheon, where Princess Margherita, one of Italy’s first queens, is buried. Later, some tasted her namesake pizza at lunch!

Up next on our tour was the smallest country in the world- the Vatican. We learned how to distinguish Roman and Greek art, which is appropriate for our trip to Italy and Greece! We snaked our way through the museum to the breath-taking Sistine Chapel, where many stood in awe of the ceiling’s beauty before we saw where the Pope Francis was recently elected.

After an eventful day of sightseeing, we welcomed an elaborate Roman dinner, where we wore traditional togas and were serenaded by Italian singers all night. The whole group started dancing after Josh took the lead and waltzed with one of the singers. Once the entertaining meal was finished, we explored some more of Rome at night.

The next morning, we visited the ancient Roman catacombs on the outskirts of town. As we walked through the murky underground tombs, we explored just a sample of the 500,000 graves at the site along with seeing the oldest art in Italy. Our guide referred to the site as a “mini Vatican”, and we even witnessed a solemn mass in honor of the nine Popes honored in the tombs.

Backpack Greece, the Islands & Italy

Later, we arrived at the famous Piazza Navona, the site of entertainment for ancient Romans. In order to fully get a feel of navigating on their own, trip members competed in a heated scavenger hunt, “Legends of the Hidden Fountain,” and discovered their way to the Trevi fountain. In one challenge, Sascha even served a heaping scoop of gelato to her team, but the Blue Barracudas eventually secured the win. Alex, Josh, Dyllan, Emily, Victoria, and Lydia celebrated by tossing coins in the fountain with hopes of returning to Rome someday. For dinner, we checked out the Trastevere neighborhood, known for its unique character. We hiked to Gianicolo hill to take in the best views of Rome at night.

Our days in Rome were packed full of culture, history, exploration and yummy foods. We even welcomed a new “trip member” (a trip mascot) to the group, which is actually just a giant Orange Fanta bottle. His name is ‘Paulie G’ after a hilarious misunderstanding from a group game we were playing.

In just under a week, we’re truly experiencing what it’s like to travel and explore, especially in a place where we don’t speak much of the language.

We’ll update you soon about our picturesque stay in the charming town of Perugia. For a sneak peak, you should imagine your son or daughter gathered around a cobblestone pathway, ivy-covered lampposts all around, with Dylan playing guitar and singing for us. Yes, it really is that quaint here. Until next time,

Ciao grazie!

The Westcoast Blogger

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